Brick and Structural Clay

SPECIAL SECTION/BRICK & CLAY RECORD: Sustainability Certification

The BIA has co-developed an empirical policy that enables manufacturers to certify brick as an environmentally preferable product.

In November 2009, Booz Allen Hamilton's "U.S. Green Jobs Study” forecast that LEEDTM-related spending will generate an additional $12.5 billion in gross domestic product between 2009 and 2013. In that same time period, the study also predicts that LEED-related spending will support 230,000 jobs and provide $10.7 billion in labor earnings in the U.S.

In addition, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reports that, as of August 2009, over 4000 homes were in the certification pipeline for the 2008 National Green Building Standard. Put together, it is clear that the demand for credible documentation that supports product manufacturers’ environmental claims will increase significantly in the years ahead.

When compiling documentation to substantiate the green claims of a building product, many architects, builders and designers currently rely on a product manufacturer’s own claims. In this scenario, total trust is placed in the manufacturer’s ability to correctly apply the various environmental attributes of its product to a green rating system.

With such potential for inconsistency and misinterpretation, the Brick Industry Association (BIA) recognized that architects, builders and designers need a higher level of verification. In April 2009, the BIA approved a policy, developed in conjunction with the National Brick Research Center (NBRC), entitled “Certifying Brick-an Environmentally Preferable Product Policy.” This policy is the first of its kind in the masonry industry.

Figure 1. A settling pond that has been dredged for recycled material.

Policy Details

To meet the highest level of verification, manufacturers subject their products’ green claims to the scrutiny of a third-party, impartial and qualified organization. Since designers frequently place their trust in such groups to interpret and apply the aspects of being “green” across all of the products it certifies, it is important for a third-party organization to have expertise and a thorough understanding of the brick industry. Given the NBRC’s extensive experience with brick, along with the fact that it follows the various ethics policies of Clemson University, the center was a natural choice.

The certification program provides clay brick manufacturers with a means of verifying their “green” claims and focuses on three primary areas: recycled content, use of renewable energy and a reduction in manufacturing resources.

Figure 2. The use of landfill gas is an example of the use of renewable energy.

Amount of Recycled Content
The recycled content of a brick is accurately determined so that the quantities assigned to earn points per the green building rating system are correct. Because materials vary in type and source among brick manufacturers, differences need to be accounted for. For example, recycled material has to be diverted from a landfill and culls from manufacturing must have gone through firing to be considered recycled material (see Figure 1).

Utilization of Renewable Energy
If renewable energy was used to produce the brick, the type and amount of energy is reported and verified. Examples of renewable energy used by brick manufacturers have included methane gas from landfills and sawdust (see Figure 2).

Figure 3. Capturing and using the kiln’s exhaust heat to dry the brick reduces the amount of energy needed for the manufacturing process.

Reduction in the Amount of Resources Used to Manufacture Brick
If the manufacturer demonstrates that it has reduced the amount of resources necessary to manufacture a brick with fewer materials or reduced energy-or both-then the amount of material and/or energy is noted. Points awarded for resource reduction efforts may be available for a limited time period in order to reward those companies that continue to lower the amount of materials and energy used. Reduced resources include actions taken by the manufacturer to produce brick from less material, and/or to use equipment that consumes less energy in the manufacture of brick (see Figure 3).

Verification Process

The NBRC has developed a rigorous process to verify the environmental claims of brick manufacturers. First, the NBRC reviews the brick manufacturer’s documentation. The manufacturer submits a request form and background information for each brick or brick blend from a particular plant, and these data are reviewed by the NBRC. The center then determines if any sampling and testing are required prior to the plant audit. If sampling and testing are required, the NBRC obtains those samples and completes the necessary tests.

The NBRC then conducts an on-site plant audit of the manufacturing facility. During the audit, the NBRC verifies documentation, discusses recordkeeping requirements and any training required to complete those requirements, inspects the locations of recycled and waste materials, and examines the manufacturing process. NBRC then writes a report detailing the materials and manufacturing processes, and proceeds with the internal NBRC engineering review.

In this segment of the audit, the NBRC confirms that the information obtained does not conflict with the ISO14021 document, the “Certifying Brick-an Environmentally Preferable Product Policy” or the green building rating systems. For certification to be issued, the center’s professional staff must be in agreement. A final report is submitted to the company for review, and a certificate and accompanying materials are provided upon acceptance.

To ensure that their certification is valid for the full three-year period, each site must undergo a yearly re-evaluation of its processes, along with a paperwork review (unless something in the process has changed that warrants a plant audit). The NBRC’s staff also reviews a manufacturer’s claims as verified by the on-site audit in accordance with the procedures of Clemson University.

“This third-party certification program is an integral part of BIA’s overall sustainability and green building design strategy,” says Dick Jennison, president and CEO of the BIA. “And it’s consistent with our mission of furnishing our members with the tools they need to position their product as strongly and accurately as possible.”

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